Objective social knowledge which accurately depicts and explains social reality

Objective social knowledge which accurately depicts

This preview shows page 139 - 141 out of 150 pages.

Objective social knowledge which accurately depicts and explains social reality has these qualities by virtue of its relation to its object, not its subject. As Collier argues, “The science/ideology distinction is an epistemological one, not a social one.” (Collier 1979: 60). So, for example, in the work of Grovogui, Gathii and Depelchin, the general perspectiveand knowledge ofconditions in and thehistory of Africa might be duelargely to the African social origins of the authors. However the judgement that
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their accounts are superiorto those of mainstream IR rests not on the fact that the authors are African, but on the greater adequacy of their accountswith respect tothe actual historical and contemporary production of conditions and change in Africaandelsewherein the Third World. The criteria for choosing their accounts over others derives from the relation between the ideas and their objects (what they are about), not from the relation between the ideas and their subjects (who produced them). It is vital to retain explicitly some commitment to objectivity in social inquiry, to the notion that the proper criterion for judging ideas about the world lies in what they say about the world, not whose ideas they are.A fundamental problem which underliesthe origin and reproduction of IR’s eurocentricityis the overwhelming dominance of ideas produced in and by the west, and the wilfuland determined silencing of the voices and histories of the colonised. But the result of this fundamental problem is flawed knowledge about the world. Eurocentricity is therefore a dual problem concerning both the authors and the content of knowledge, and cannot be resolved through normative commitments alone. It is not only the voices of the colonised, but the histories of colonialism, which have been glaring in their absence from the discipline of International Relations.Overcoming eurocentricity therefore requires not only concerted effort from the centre to create space and listen to hitherto marginalised voices, but also commitment to correcting the flaws in prevailing knowledgeand it is not only ‘the Other’ who can and should elaborate this critique. A vitally important implication of objectivity is that it is the responsibility of European and American, just as much as non-American or non-European scholars, to decolonise IR. The importance of objectivityin social inquiry defended here canperhaps be seen as a form of epistemological internationalism. It is not necessary to be African to attempt to tell a more accurate account of the history of Europe’s role in the making of the contemporary Africaand the rest of the world, for example, or to write counter-histories of ‘theexpansion of international society’ which detail the systematic barbarity ofso-called Western civilisation. It is not necessary to have been colonised to recognise and document the violence, racism, genocide and dispossession which have characterised European expansion over five hundred years.
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